The possibility that Freetown will join the Old Colony Regional Vocational-Technical School district was discussed by the Rochester Board of Selectmen during its October 5 hybrid meeting.
All three selectmen, Chairman Paul Ciaburri, Vice Chairman Brad Morse, and Clerk Woody Hartley attended a meeting held at Old Colony’s Rochester campus, along with Finance Committee Chairman Kristian Stoltenberg was also present.
Freetown’s formal request to join the five-town Old Colony district may not be its only option. Since 1986, students could pay tuition to attend Old Colony, but Hartley pointed out in Monday night’s meeting that this is the first academic year in 30 years that Old Colony has had no students from Freetown.
Joining requires buy-in by the joining town and a unanimous Town Meeting vote in all member towns including Freetown, something that will not appear on any town meeting warrant for a vote this year. Old Colony is looking to expand its Rochester campus and has talked about a medical technician program.
While the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) would award more grant money for an expansion project to accommodate six towns rather than five, a no vote in any member town shoots down the possibility of Freetown becoming an Old Colony member.
The selectmen reviewed the draft warrant for the Special Town Meeting to be held on Monday, November 16. “It’s just a draft right now,” said Town Administrator Suzanne Szyndlar, noting that the selectmen’s next meeting (Monday, October 19) will include representation from the Planning Board, the town moderator, town clerk, etc., at which points recommendations can be made.
The warrant also includes an article on sidewalk snow clearing.
“We’re going to need to think about it as far as cleaning the sidewalk in front of private properties,” said Town Counsel Blair Bailey, noting the amount of manpower that it would take to accomplish.
Rochester residents are required within 24 hours from the end of precipitation to clear in front of their properties. Bailey said it’s the town’s responsibility to plow the snow off of those sidewalks not in front of private homes.
Morse pointed out that three-quarters of Rochester’s sidewalks are not in front of private properties and extend miles. As an abutter to the Connet Woods development, Morse would not vote on the matter but he did say, “I think the cost is going to be prohibitive.” Meantime, he cautioned that plowing stretches of sidewalk and steering around those in front of homes makes hitting sprinkler heads likely.
Hartley advised his colleagues to bring the matter to the public at Town Meeting and settle it there.
In other business, the Board of Selectmen voted against using its right of first refusal on Neck Road where Decas Cranberry Inc. applied to create one buildable lot out of three smaller properties. The Planning Board (against) and Conservation Commission (for) made conflicting recommendations to the selectmen where it concerns exercising right of first refusal in the case of Bendrix Bailey at Gerrish Road and Snipatuit Pond. The selectmen voted not to exercise its right of first refusal.
The selectmen signed off on a borrowing anticipation note renewal for an ambulance and also on the State Election Warrant.
Rochester’s Department of Public Utilities is scheduled to meet on Thursday, October 29, at 2:00 pm and has invited Representative William M. Straus and State Senator Michael J. Rodrigues to join a Zoom call to support the Utility Aggregation Plan, Rochester’s first as a part of the Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District (SRPEDD).
Szyndlar reported that Rochester will soon receive its first CARES Act reimbursement check in the amount of $33,602.
Rochester’s Verizon contract cable deal expires on May 6, 2023. It was suggested negotiations start early. Morse will represent the selectmen in negotiations with Chief of Police Robert Small, whose contract is up next year. Szyndlar reported to the selectmen that Andrew Daniel needs to be appointed as ADA coordinator through June 30, 2023.
The town clerk has ordered an official ballot box that will be clearly marked and placed safely in front of Town Hall.
The board has put Christmas tree lighting on hold. As for Halloween, the selectmen recommend people follow the CDC guideline.
The next meeting of the Board of Selectmen is scheduled for Monday, October 19.
Rochester Board of Selectmen
By Mick Colageo